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eLaw - Center for Law and Digital Technologies

Working groups at eLaw

The purpose of eLaw's Working Groups is to stimulate a productive working environment for cooperation within the Center for Law and Digital Technologies at Leiden University.

The members of the Working Groups work together to advance the research on specific topics within law and digital technologies, including regulation and governance, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

Each working group has an annual plan of different activities that range from co-writing papers, organizing lectures, network drinks, feedback sessions, or joining efforts to obtain funding for carrying out societal-oriented projects. 

If you would like to know more about a specific Working Group, click on the tabs below:

Goal and focus areas

Robotics and Autonomous Systems is an interdisciplinary Working Group at eLaw dedicated to advance the understanding of the legal, regulatory, and ethical implications of robots and autonomous systems.  

Our work focuses on four core domains:

  • Robots and embodied technologies
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Algorithmic profiling and decision-making
  • Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency


The integration of tangible and virtual elements in cyber-physical systems is growing. Autonomous cars, surgery and rehabilitation robots, smart home appliances, toys, and natural language processors are just a few examples of technologies that increasingly interact with humans in private, professional, or public settings. Public administration and private corporations also use algorithms to automate decision-making processes that affect and condition the life of citizens and users. These systems unleash opportunities that only seemed far-fetched a few years back: they provide the ability to automate, monitor and control infrastructures that are critical to modern life, such as power plants, and production processes; they effectively manage city resources, reducing traffic congestion, pollution or optimizing the air condition; or empower users with reduced mobility in healthcare settings. Robots are present at homes, schools, or care facilities embodied as dolls, companions, customer assistants, pets, or innocent speakers blurring the line between the cyber and the physical world. 

Due to the novelty of practices and impacts, the development of technology may bring about unclear rules and areas of legal ambiguity. In other words, there might not be an immediate applicable legal rule or precedent to a particular use or development of technology. The exponential growth of supercomputing power, the ability to store and process large quantities of data and improve the performance of the Internet do not seem to facilitate either way the reaction capacity of society to face the problems arising from the use and development of technology. These factors altogether hinder the identification and addressing of the ethical, legal, and societal issues (ELSI) associated with the use and development of technology by governments and public regulatory bodies, who struggle to catch up with technology (r)evolution.

The working group

The purpose of the group Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the eLaw Center for Law and Digital Technologies is to create a productive, creative, and supportive output-oriented working environment to advance the research on the legal and regulatory aspects of robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, algorithmic decision making, smart toys, expert systems, and artificial agents. 

Our goal is to be at the forefront of the research in the interdisciplinary domain of law and autonomous systems, explore and enrich our knowledge with other colleagues' expertise, and become a hub for forward-thinkers, learners, academics, policymakers, government, and the industry, who want to understand and leverage robots and autonomous systems' impact and potential.

Goal and focus areas

The main goal of this research group is to discuss, under an interdisciplinary and open-minded approach, different understandings of the concept of human vulnerability from various fields (philosophy, law, sociology) and how it should be rethought in the age of digital technologies and addressed by law, in different sectors (data protection law, consumer protection law, AI regulations, etc.). In sum, the research group addresses different aspects, including (but not limited to) the following ones:

  • Different approaches to human vulnerability (feminist, bioethics, law & economics, political philosophy perspectives);
  • Data subjects’ vulnerability;
  • Consumers’ vulnerability;
  • Vulnerability in digital markets and in social robotics;
  • Traditionally vulnerable groups (children, marginalised minorities, people with disabilities, victims of hatred based on gender or sexual orientation) and the legal protections for them.

The working group

The working group is composed of different scholars, including junior and senior staff, from different research groups and departments (including the Institute of Interdisciplinary Study of the Law and the Institute of Private Law). The group members meet regularly to discuss the legal implications of human vulnerability in the digital ecosystem. The discussions focus on relevant literature, new project ideas, and multi-level initiatives. The group often hosts external scholars who are experts in this field in order to discuss their research work.

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